Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Argentina Vacation

pics: http://www.dotphoto.com/Go.asp?l=jonesth&P=&AID=3248295&T=1

Day 1 Friday

Well, after a short 1.5 week planning period for my trip, it is time to head out. As I had out the door to the airport, I quickly realize that my "travel/hiking" shoes are not quite as comfortable as they were 5 years ago backpacking around Europe. I am no more than 100 yards out my front door, and one of my toes is starting to rub. I decide I don't have any other good shoes, so they will have to do!!After a short flight to Chicago, I am about to entertain my SEVEN hour layover...all the while thinking "how did this happen?" Well, priceline is how it happened, and it saved me $200!! Luckily I have a friend in Chicago, so we met up so she could show me her new place and grab a bite at a local restaurant. Did I mention how COLD it was...and my toe was really starting to rub in my shoe, causing me GREAT concern!! Ah well. Back to the airport a few hours later and soon up in the air for the long flight down to Buenos Aires.

Day 2 Saturday

OK, trying to sleep overnight on a plane is about one of the most miserable things EVER!! Luckily the seat next to me was open, so I got a few hours of shut eye. I get into BA and grab a remises to the hostel I am staying at for the night. All I want at this point is a nice shower...cold water, cold water...wait, it is getting warm...PHEW! I jump in the shower, only to hear something come crashing down around me! WHAT!?! The shower head and pipe have come out of the wall, and water is just spewing all over the place...gotta love the great stories that come out of staying in hostels!!After getting cleaned up, I head out to explore the posh Recoleta neighborhood in BA. It is really nice, reminds me of New York City. As a true Skins fan, I spend the second half of my day locating a bar that is televising the game...and watch our boys go down in ugly defeat! Yikes. Oh well.

Day 3 Sunday

I grab a breakfast at a local cafe, and have a not very good, burnt omelet, but it was a nice spot for some people watching. My friend Ed arrives and we head out to check out the Recoleta cemetery. It is unlike anything you can imagine. The graves are these huge burial monuments. You have to check out the pics to appreciate them, many costing $$$.For dinner we head to Puerto Madero, and have an excellent dinner at Puerto Cristal, where champagne is served immediately, the Malbec wine is excellent, and dinner is great, all for about $30US. After that we hit the local Kilkenney's and Shamrock's establishments.

Day 4 Monday

Ed and I sleep in, still trying to catch up on sleep from the overnight plane flights. I think we finally head out to Florida Ave around 2pm for some shopping. We find a $3US alarm clock, one of our better investments on the trip! We walk around the city for several hours exploring, and end up at the casino river boat. After losing some money, decide I don't like the casino, and it is time for us to roll out. We hit up the Kilkenney's happy hour. Then we head over to San Telmo to try to find a tango show. We end up finding "tango on the square," pretty cool!! We then head to dinner at 11pm, down to Siga La Vaca on Puerto Madero, only to have a ONE HOUR wait at 11pm...amazing! I guess everyone was right when they said Argentineans ate dinner late! After that we try to find a bar called Cha Cha Cha that a local told us about, only to find it had shut down. Off to Shamrocks...and then only 4 hours of sleep!

Day 5 Tuesday

After an early morning 6am wakeup call to catch our flight to Bariloche (in the lakes region of Patagonia), we board the plane. The flight is a quick 2 hour flight over beautiful Patagonia...awesome! We explore Bariloche for a while, then head up to Cerra Catedral to go downhill mountain biking. After befriending the mountain bike guides (they were so happy to have a fast biker to bomb down the mountain with...and they sure did BOMB down...these guys were fast)!! Our guide Damien and his colleague Gabriella joined us after the ride for a beer, good times hanging with the locals! Damien gives us a ride back from Cerra Catedral in his classic Ford pick-up truck. We then grab dinner at a highly recommended restaurant, Alberto's. AMAZING!! Never before have I had a steak melt in my mouth like this...all for $10US! WOW. We head over to the local hotspot Wilkenney's for a few cold ones.

Day 6 Wednesday

We wake up pretty early for a big white water rafting trip. After a 1.5 hour drive, we arrive at the launching point for a class III and IV rafting trip. The campsite is great, and we enjoy a quick breakfast before we get geared up and head out. After about an hour of pretty easy white water, but SPECTACULAR views of the Andes mountains, we start hitting some fun rapids. The entire time, awestruck with the beauty of the country. AMAZING! We pull out of the river right on the border of Chile, then head back to camp for an excellent asado and wine lunch!! Nothing can compare to these excellent Malbec wines we continue to enjoy!! We then get enticed into a game of football between the guides and the rest of us. Good times, Ed and I end up with huge blisters on our feet (no shoes) and we still lose by a few goals to the locals. What a great time.After the full-day rafting trip, we meet up with our local friend Gabriella , and her friend Martine, and we have a nice dinner, then go over to Roxy (locals bar) and Wilkeney's where we meet up with Augu and Ivanna. We have a great time hanging out with all of them!

Day 7 Thursday

After sleeping in late (several 4 and 5 hour nights of sleep are catching up), we go grab some delicious pastries and fruit for breakfast (total cost each = $.50). We then head out on a half-day horseback riding excursion up into the mountains overlooking the lake. Spectacular vistas the whole time...good times! We get back and grab some more filet mignon (Lomo) at Alberto's and head over to the too crowded Wilkenney's.

Day 8 Friday

Ed and I jumped into a one hour bus ride up to Villa La Angustura to meet up with our friends Cesar and Ali. I received Cesar’s name from a local DC adventure racer as a great person to get in touch with in Argentina. Cesar is the CEO of a local adventure travel company (Quest Patagonia, http://www.questpatagonia.com/). , and manages several top adventure races in Patagonia. Cesar met us at the bus station, and we caught a ride to his house and then checked into our hostel (this was an interesting one!!).

We grabbed some lunch meat, cheese, and bread at the local supermercada and joined Cesar and Ali (his business partner) for an awesome 6 hour trek to the top of a mountain. After a grueling climb, we were all rewarding with beautiful panoramic views of the Andes mountains, and lakes every direction we looked. Truly spectacular! After starting our hike back down, we diverted from the original path and headed over to an awesome waterfall. The crystal clean glacier melt water was too tempting, and I decided I had to jump into the waterfall…quite refreshing and FREEZING!! Ed took up the adventure and followed…while Cesar and Ali thought we were crazy!! SO COLD!

After getting back and cleaning up, Cesar picked up Ed and I and we grabbed drinks at a great restaurant overlooking the lake and watching the sun set. We then shot over to a restaurant and grabbed a late dinner before calling it a night.

Day 9 Saturday

Cesar took us to the bus station to catch a bus up to San Martin….only to have all the buses booked!! What a disaster, and luckily Cesar was with us to translate and get us on an afternoon bus. So, with extra time to kill, Ed and I rented mountain bikes and headed out to the Arayannes forest for a 24k mountain bike ride. We started running short on time, and Ed and I had to fly home on the bikes…at a pretty fast clip!

The bus ride up to San Martin de Andes was spectacular. The locals call this drive the “7 lakes route” and it is beautiful. We get into San Martin, scramble around town to find lodging for the night, and end up at a great hotel (a little pricey at US$30 each, but worth just having a bed to sleep in – versus the local park)! After exploring the small town and beach nestled off a lake in the Andes mountains, we grabbed dinner. We then headed to the “locals” bar and got beat in foos by some locals. We then went over to Downtown Matias, and had a pretty good time.

Day 10 Sunday

Headed out in the morning to the local pastry shop, grabbed a couple pastries and sandwiches for lunch. We then headed to the beach for a few good hours of R&R. The water was cold to swim in (like Lake Tahoe), but certainly a nice refresher from the powerful sunshine. In the afternoon, we went out kayaking and had stunning views of the lake, beach, town and Andes mountains. A pretty powerful wind kicked up in the afternoon, creating some small whitecap waves…good times! I spent a few more hours that afternoon exploring the city, and taking in the local culture. This town is very nice, where the wealthy people vacation from Buenos Aires. Caught part of the NFL playoffs at The Dublin and then headed back to Downtown Matias.

Day 11 Monday

I headed out fairly early in the morning to the local bike shop where I grabbed a Specialized Stumpjumper for a mountain bike ride. The trail map was terrible, and I continued to get lost on trails, but finally got pointed in the right direction after seeing another biker. After several miles of riding, I reached my destination point at a cool, secluded beach on the lake. After getting back in town, it was time to jump on the bus back to Bariloche. This was a long 4 hour bus ride without a bathroom…luckily I made it!! (secret to buses in Argentina, total dehydration the day of the bus trip to ensure you can make it)!! We got back into Bariloche and checked into the Marco Polo Inn Hostel. Great social hostel where we hung out for a while, grabbed another amazing dinner at Alberto’s and went out to Wilkinneys to try to find some of our friends.

Day 12 Tuesday

I decided I was in need of a nice relaxing day, and we didn’t have any adventures scheduled. After walking around town and doing some shopping, I decided to take a pilates class in town. Great way to relax and work the muscles a bit. For dinner Ed and I tried Alberto’s pasta, and after an hour wait, enjoyed the most delicious lasagna ever!! An Israeli girl who was traveling by herself joined us for dinner and then we went out for drinks…another big late night out! Argentineans live for staying out late! We went to Roxy, then a local’s bar to play some foos (which we heard was very dangerous the next night). At first the locals wouldn’t let me in the game, but after they gave me a chance and I hit a few good shots…they were going nuts and laughing and offering me some of their 32oz cerveza!! Good times.

Day 13 Wednesday

Today was a day we were hoping to go canyoning, but unfortunately, the guides all had conflicting schedules and were not able to take us out…a real bummer. We decide to go on an all-day trek, where we saw some beautiful waterfalls and glaciers…but HUGE horseflies were out in full effect, and I did not like them! That night we went out with our friend Silka from Germany, and then met up with our friends Gabriella and Augu…stayed out until 5:45am and had a heck of a good time.

Day 14 Thursday

9am alarm clock - we sleep through it
10:10 - Ed says...DAG, what time is it?
10:10 - I launch out of bed...no way we are going to make flight from Bariloche (Patagonia) to Buenos Aires, but must try
10:18 - get in cab
10:38 - arrive at airport
10:50 - flight takes off...and WE MADE IT!!

I can´tbelieve it. we arrived at the airport 12 min before itwas going to take off...a NEW record!! ha ha.

After finally making it to Buenos Aires and getting lodging (after trekking all around town), we crashed for a nice (and much needed) siesta. That night we had an awesome adventure to a Boca versus Bolivia soccer game. These fans were going nuts, and very passionate for the home team Boca. Boca won 6-0 in the season opener, and fans were going nuts, very excited about the prospects of a great season! That night we headed to a local club…which was interesting.

Day 15 Friday

We went out on a 4 hour bike tour of the city. This was great b/c we got some history on the city, and were able to really get around and see a bunch of the city. In addition, Ed and I found a little restaurant in Camanito that had some free tango lessons if we bought a beer for $1.66. Now this was the best use of $2 the whole trip...you can't leave Buenos Aires without getting in a good tango!! I found a little spot for lunch that had a gyro for $1.23 and you could add a beer for $.30…what a deal and DELICOUS!! I spent the afternoon on Avenida Florida shopping, and found a guy in an apartment to make me a fitted leather jacked….this should be nice! We had dinner with a friend from the hostel at the famous Cabana Las Lilas was excellent, but by far the most expensive meal we had in Argentina (about $30 each), then headed to Shamrock for a few beers.

Day 16 Saturday

I headed back down to Avenida Florida to pick up my leather jacket…where the guy was asking for more money that I thought we agreed upon. He spoke no English, and I spoke no Spanish, so this was a difficult situation. I decided not to buy the jacket for his price, and will have to get a nice custom made leather jacket on my next trip to the country. I spent the afternoon hitting wineries and enjoying wine tastings to decide what 6 bottles of wine I wanted to bring home.

Time for the airport…and totally beat ready for good sleep…doubtful that will happen on a cramped overnight flight home!!

What a trip. Excellent food and wine, everything very inexpensive. Beautiful outdoors and adventures. Friendly well educated people…and great times!! I hope to make it back for 2 weeks in December…to further explore southern Patagonia.


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At 2:28 PM, Blogger Tyler said...

What a great trip Tucker! You got to see some awesome places and do some nice activities. Makes me want to get to South America even more now!


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